“No dogs allowed,” was one of the main house rules in Brian Taylor’s childhood home in suburban New Jersey.
But the founder of New York City-based Harlem Doggie Day Spa and his brother defied their parents’ wishes, using their own basement and friends’ homes to hide stray dogs until they found new homes for them. Taylor bathed the dogs in the hope that his mother wouldn’t smell them.
Going to the Dogs
After going to college, moving to New York City, and landing a job at a top bank, Taylor met a woman with a dog-walking business in the Harlem neighborhood where he worked. He volunteered to help her walk dogs after work and together, over the course of two years, they grew the business to include grooming. He went to school to become a dog groomer and took over the business in 2010.
Soon, happy customers began asking for more services: Could he provide doggie day care? Could he watch their dogs when they went away?
Taylor eventually walked away from his banking job, freeing him to turn his side gig into a full-time job. Able to focus all of his attention on what was his hobby, Taylor has grown Harlem Doggie Day Spa to two locations with a third in the planning stage--an experiential retail location called The Pup Squad. The company also offers mobile dog grooming, day care, cage-free boarding with 24-hour staffing, and transportation.
A Focus on Community
Taylor and his team also have a fierce commitment to the community they serve. In 2013, in partnership with the New York City Center of Alternative Sentence and Employment Service (CASES), he launched an internship program for at-risk youth. Teenagers who have had trouble with the law or had not graduated from high school came to work with him to learn the dog grooming business. After six weeks, he hired a number of the interns as full-time employees, which helped him grow even more. “They love what they’re doing, they’re highly motivated, and have great customer service skills,” he says.
Beyond that, Taylor is embedded in the community in other ways. He regularly participates in fundraising efforts for a local school, as well as community food and clothing drives. He has even rented his space for a local artists’ showcase. He also led a “No Poop Left Behind” campaign in 2013 to increase the number of dog poop bag stations in the area.
As a result of the company’s strong growth and community focus, Harlem Doggie Day Spa has been named the 3rd place winner in the inaugural CloverAchievers contest by point-of-sale platform Clover in 2019. “The goal of CloverAchievers is to shine a bright light on a few small businesses that represent the entrepreneurial spirit that serves as the backbone of the American economy,” says Mark Schulze, Clover co-founder. “Harlem Doggie Day Spa is a truly unique business that fills a huge void within their community. Brian and his team are a shining example to aspiring entrepreneurs in Harlem, and really give back to their local neighborhood and beyond.”
Old School, but Tech Savvy
And while dog grooming and care may be a traditional service business, Taylor credits technology to the company’s growth. An avid social media user, Taylor is an influencer among dog lovers with more than 11,000 combined Facebook and Instagram followers. He shares grooming tips and tricks, especially for hard-to-groom dogs, on Facebook and YouTube. As a result, he has also booked television appearances, which has helped spread the word about his business.
Taylor has also integrated tech in his day-to-day operations to stay organized and provide impeccable service. And, he’s currently planning an app to allow pet owners to request services, buy pet food, and pay for sitting or dog walks on demand, he says. These investments help him continue to grow the company which ultimately benefits the community. “I really wanted to create jobs. I want to continue building the concept of helping people follow what they love and their passion and then find a way to get them involved in it,” he says.
To learn more about Harlem Doggie Day Spa and the other CloverAchievers contest winners, visit www.firstdata.com/clovercontest.
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